Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 1, verses 15 & 16

Galatians 1:15 & 16 -- "But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,"

After Paul sets out his credentials as a devout and pious Jew, he transitions with “but when God . . .” Funny. God intervenes. How interesting. Paul is living an ostensibly “religious life,” in a religious society, doing what his religion demands he must do in order to "live right," and then God enters the picture. God is also completely responsible and completely in control. God had set Paul apart “from birth.” The textual note in my Bible indicates that this implies “from his mother’s womb.” It really means God had set Paul apart with purpose from before he was born. Indeed, God had a purpose for Paul’s like since the beginning of time. (see Ephesians 1:4 -- "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight").

“and called me” God reached out and grabbed hold of Paul to illuminate his life regarding this purpose. But this was no scholarly approach – it was an intimate, personal calling – “called ME.” There was no “casting call,” there was no open enrollment, no "help wanted" advertisement, or an announcement for applicants. God’s specific purpose was meant for Paul only – tailor made! It had been created for him, and he had been created for it. Therefore, for Paul, and for each of us who God has called, we realize that God’s plea in Isaiah 6:8—“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” is really a rhetorical question. God already knows the answer before he asks the question because he created each of us for a specific purpose. I suppose we can always reply with “not me,” but the purpose and the calling remain. But the next phrase speaks to this very issue anyway.

“By His grace” There is nothing we can do to earn the honor, or be ready, or be worthy of the call. It all comes from God.

“was pleased” We don’t deserve it, but God loves us so much, He is pleased to work these things out in our lives. This whole concept and process makes God happy – it brings fulfillment to Him! We don’t deserve it, but God is happy to fulfill his purpose in our lives. Even when we’re stubborn, or rebellious, or even when we just don’t want it.

Verse 16: “To reveal his Son in me.” The wording here is important, and so indicative of the essence of the Gospel. This was “revelation,” in contrast to Paul’s background, where closeness to God and right relationship with God was measured by how hard you had studied, how much you knew, the “correctness” of your position, and how you behaved in relation to the standard of the law and tradition. Instead, God chose a man who natural strengths lay in his intellect and learning, and simply said “Here it is.” It was as if Paul was taking his final exams, and God gave him the answer key to the test. This revelation was “in Him,” and it was a revelation of Jesus as a person, not of knowledge or concepts. The revelation, in truth, was that God could live in Paul, in the person of Jesus. This was not head knowledge. The emphasis is on a personal, loving relationship with God. He clarifies this with the final phrase – “I did not consult any man.” His foundational experience was in a personal relationship with Jesus.

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